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Palin convention speech energizes Queens GOP

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The phone calls from borough residents buzzing about the GOP national convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul came to Queens Republican Party Chairman Phil Ragusa before he returned home.

"I got calls from people in New York asking me to bring back [Sarah Palin] buttons, and I did," Ragusa said in a phone interview Tuesday. "That's how energized they were."

Ragusa, an alternate delegate to the convention who heard speeches from Palin, the GOP's vice presidential nominee and governor of Alaska, and presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) live from the convention floor, said he believes the ticket will resonate in Queens.

"I've been to seven conventions," Ragusa said. Palin's speech "was one of the best days I ever spent at a convention. She was just spectacular."

The 639,729 registered Democrats in the borough outstrip the 141,848 registered Republicans by a ratio of more than 4.5, according to the latest voter enrollment totals from the state Elections Board.

The Whitestone accountant said he believed the GOP would do well in northeast Queens, where there are relatively more Republicans than other parts of the borough, and areas of Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village, where there are many veterans of the military.

Ragusa said the calls from various borough constituencies included veterans who were attracted to McCain and working mothers and families with special needs children who related to Palin. The vice presidential nominee, who is 44, recently gave birth to a child with Down syndrome.

"Everybody I've spoken to, they all seemed to like what [Palin] said. I think she injected some energy into the campaign."

He also heaped praise on McCain, who spoke the night after Palin.

"McCain was fantastic the next night," Ragusa said. His speech "hit all the right notes and we got a big boost from that."

Although Palin is generally more conservative than most Queens voters — she is against abortion and pro-guns — Ragusa said he believes borough residents can identify with her.

"She is right-to-life, but she has a special needs child," he said. "I got a couple of calls and it was just about that."

The Queens GOP chairman argued that Palin also "has more executive experience" than Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

"She's the governor of Alaska," he said. "She's made some hard decisions. She's a tough lady and she's going to do fantastic."

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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